Elliott Carter

American composer

Elliott Carter (11 December 19085 November 2012) was an American composer of classical music.


  • The pre-World War I works of Schoenberg, Berg, and Webern, "give a glimpse of a new universe of emancipated discourse, unfortunately quickly abandoned when Schoenberg returned to the classical musical shapes upon adopting the twelve-tone system."
    • Elliott Carter (1977). The Writings of Elliott Carter, p.186. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.
    • Cited in Albright, Daniel (2004). Modernism and Music: An Anthology of Sources. University of Chicago Press. ISBN 0226012670.
  • I'm very concerned with the performer, but I'm not too concerned with the listener. It seems to me that if you can interest the performer and make him feel that he's done something really valuable, his playing will convince the audience just that. To write for the audience is just too uncertain. You never know what your audience may be like, but you can usually know what your performers will be like. A good musician has the training to appreciate all sorts of things you might try to do in a piece. A performer will also recognize whether a piece is skillfully written or original -- an audience might not always be so sure.
  • People call my music complex because I will have instruments playing at their own paces, as if the other instruments weren't even there. It doesn't march along in the same way that most older music does. But to me, I honestly don't think that a work like Debussy's La Mer is any less complex than my work. It's full of all sorts of sounds and textures going on at once, yet we still look at is as beautiful, structured and fluid. That's all I'm trying to do; I'm not out to compose for complexity's sake.
  • I think more audiences would like contemporary music if they were presented with it, told about it. It's just a matter of familiarity, I think. Then one begins to look back at old music as stuffy, or even tiresome. It's funny -- I'm beginning to like older music more than I used to, but it's like I'm going into a museum and contemplating a Rembrandt. It just feels like its part of the aristocratic class system of kings and queens and dukes which just doesn't exist anymore.
  • When people listen to my music, I hope that they will notice that if you take a piece by a composer like Schubert, the major and the minor triad is an extremely important thing not merely as harmony, but in creating melodic lines. Schubert is always walking up and down with arpeggios on C, E, G and so forth. I am not doing anything different really, except using a different system of harmony.
    • Carter interviewed by Joël Bons. Album notes for Elliot Carter: homages & dedications, p.17 [CD booklet]. Montaigne Records (2003), MO 782089.
  • In the future (...) people will become more sensitive and aware than they are now. They will have to, because society will become more complicated, more full of people, with more different things happening. People will have to become much cleverer and much sharper. Then they will like my music.
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